Coalition calls on Congress to restrict Justice Department funding for aggressive enforcement practices in medical marijuana states
Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–September 17, 2013. Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sam Farr (D-CA) will join medical marijuana advocates, as well as multiple family members of imprisoned medical marijuana patients for a press conference in the District on Wednesday, September 18th at 10:30 a.m., to urge Congress to restrict Department of Justice (DOJ) funding for enforcement in medical marijuana states. Patient advocates will be drawing attention to the more than $100,000 per day that the DOJ continues to spend on medical marijuana enforcement by staging a lively theatrical action during Wednesday’s press conference in Washington, D.C. The event will take place at the Elm Tree Site, Southeast corner of grounds of Capitol Building, near 1st St. SE, between E. Capitol St. NE and Independence Ave SE, Washington, D.C.
Although Deputy Attorney General James Cole testified before the U.S. Senate last week that the DOJ would not go after individuals in compliance with state marijuana laws, the department’s policy is non-binding and leaves much up to the discretion of U.S. Attorneys, many of whom have worked aggressively to undermine such state laws. Notably, after the DOJ memo was issued last month, U.S. Attorneys in at least three states (CA, MT and WA) have said publicly that they would continue to aggressively prosecute medical marijuana providers.
“Patients need protection and legal access to medical marijuana, not more policy rhetoric from the Justice Department,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group which is organizing Wednesday’s press conference. “Patients have lost trust in the Obama Administration and are now looking for Congress to restrict its aggressive attempts to undermine state medical marijuana laws.” The push to get Congress to take decisive action is part of ASA’s Peace for Patients campaign.
Patients advocates are rallying Congressional support for HR 689, the States’ Medical Marijuana Prevention Act, introduced in February by Congressman Blumenauer. HR 689 would restrict the DOJ from enforcing federal law against medical marijuana patients, as well as against pharmacies or other entities “authorized to distribute medical marijuana from obtaining, possessing, or distributing marijuana to authorized individuals.” HR 689 also recommends that marijuana be reclassified for medical use under the Controlled Substances Act.
Wednesday’s press conference comes on the same day that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on “Reevaluating the Effectiveness of Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences.” The committee, which scheduled hearings after recent non-binding policy statements were made by the Obama Administration, will hear testimony from a panel of witnesses describing the need to reform federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
The press conference will feature several family members of medical marijuana prisoners serving mandatory minimum sentences, including Michigan patients Jerry and Jeremy Duval, California dispensary operator Aaron Sandusky, Montana cultivator Chris Williams, and one of his business partners Sherry Flor, whose husband Richard Flor died last year while serving a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for his state-compliant cultivation.
Following Wednesday’s press conference, advocates will be distributing to each Member of Congress a recently issued report on the economic and social costs of the Justice Department’s war on medical marijuana being waged across the country. The “What’s the Cost?” report was published by ASA in June and reveals that the Obama Administration has conducted more than 270 aggressive SWAT-style raids against state-compliant medical marijuana businesses and has spent more than $300 million over the past four years to do so.
HR 689, the States’ Medical Marijuana Prevention Act: http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th/house-bill/689
ASA’s Peace for Patients campaign: http://peace4patients.org
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With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.